In a televised live appearance on “The Grand Ole Opry” Saturday night, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Margo Price offered an unexpected bit of advocacy between songs, name-checking the group formerly known as Lady Antebellum before suggesting that the show should book Anita White, whom she called “the real Lady A.”
Price made the suggestion immediately after performing a cover of “Skip a Rope,” a No. 1 country hit from the 1960s that dealt with racism and other social ills.
Before going into the final number of her set, the title track from her new album “That’s How Rumors Get Started,” Price said, “I would just like to commend the Opry for coming out and saying ‘black lives matter.’ I think it’s so important at this time. And I hope that we can continue to go one step further in so many of these Nashville institutions and support the voices of our Black brothers and sisters when they need it most.”
She continued, “You know, Lady Antebellum has had a platform here. I think it would be really wonderful if y’all invited Anita White — the real Lady A — here to come and sing. You know, country music owes such a great deal of what we have to Black artists and Black music, and there (is) just no place for sexism, racism in this music.”
On Twitter Sunday, Price referred to some discord over her remarks. “Some people are ‘disappointed’ by my words about ending racism in this country,” she wrote, “but I will never be ashamed to stand up for what is right.”
Price has not pulled any punches recently in her feelings about the former Lady Antebellum wanting to share the name with the Seattle blues singer who has long used it. Three days before playing the Opry, Price forwarded a news story about the band suing Price to establish that both artists could use the name Lady A, tweeting: “Sooooo they changed their name but does the ‘A’ stand for antebellum or a–hole.”
“Skip a Rope” was recorded by Henson Cargill in 1967 and spent five weeks at the top of the country chart in 1968, going on to be nominated for a CMA Award for song of the year. Sometimes cited by country music historians as an example of a golden age of social commentary in the genre, the song included lines like, “Cheat on your taxes, don’t be a fool / Now what was that they said about a Golden Rule? / Never mind the rules, just play to win / And hate your neighbor for the shade of his skin.”
Preceding Price on the Opry Saturday was one of the newest Black country stars in a genre that hasn’t always had a surplus of them, Jimmie Allen. Also appearing on the bill (filmed live without an audience) were the Gatlin Brothers; given their avowed support for Donald Trump, that could have made for some interesting conversation backstage, if Price and the Gatlins weren’t too socially distanced.
Price has not been shy to speak up on other topics recently. Earlier in the month, she tweeted, “Would be cool if, instead of arresting peaceful protesters, the police would go downtown on Broadway and arrest bar owners like Steve Smith and all the other asshat(s) who are walking around without masks on and spreading Covid.”
Price’s TV tour behind her new album continues with two more appearances today. After performing on PBS/CNN International’s “Amanpour,” she’ll be seen in a pre-recorded full-band video on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”